Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 Fairy Tale Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

This presents another list of subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials games, as always inspired by the original D12 Subclasses created by Dyson Logos.

For other subclasses in my series, you can check out the subclasses tag, or go directly to the ones that sound interesting to you: Experts/Specialists, Wilderness, City-Based/Urban, Naval/Sea-Based, and Horror. I also created "D12 Sorcerer Bloodlines" for my B/X-Old School Essentials Sorcerer Class.

Also, see below for a short announcement about me publishing these in a more user-friendly format.

HOW THE SUBCLASSES WORK
If you've read this section before, you can just skip directly down to the DESIGNER NOTES.

As a reminder for those who haven't seen my previous posts, or who haven't read Dyson's posts on the matter, the idea is that every character in a game like this would take a subclass. If a player opts to play a standard version of a character class instead, the referee should award that player's character +10% to earned XP to account for having fewer class features and abilities.

These subclasses are intended to be short, quick modifications to allow for a bit of customization without creating an entire new class, so while there may be a whole host of additional abilities you could think of to add to each subclass, they could end up making it too over-powered, or could instead have enough changes to warrant the creation of an entire new class in its own right. Instead, I'm taking the standard classes from the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X edition of D&D (or from Old School Essentials) and adding one or two new abilities based on the theme of the list. In some cases, I also remove some abilities for balance and flavor.

SOME DESIGNER NOTES
This is an interesting list that actually started out as "Feudal-Noble-Aristocratic" subclasses, but I was having trouble filling in some of the roles. At the same time, I had a "Fairy Tale" list of subclasses, and eventually realized that I was overlapping the lists when I put a "Faerie Queen" subclass under the Elf class on the Feudal-Noble-Aristocratic list. At that point, it just made sense to merge the lists, but ultimately the Fairy Tale inspired subclasses took precedence. These ones are a little more whimsical in their descriptions than my other subclasses, and include notes on personality traits, appearance, and naming conventions. 

The Friar subclass for the cleric is obviously inspired by Friar Tuck from tales of Robin Hood. There are many different versions of the character throughout his literary history, but I tried to settle on the most recognizable characteristics. This one has a bit of influence from Michael McShane's version from the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves movie. (Yes, I know it's not a great movie, but that version of Friar Tuck was the one that popped into my head while working on this). 

 The dwarf subclass of the Ring Crafter is a nod to the character of Alberich from the Ring of the Nibelung saga. I had two different dwarf concepts I was toying with, but I'm saving the other one for a different project I'm working on. 

The elf Faerie Queen subclass was one of the first on my list to create, but the mechanics came toward the end. I did a lot of reading about faerie queens from literature dating back to the original The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser from 1590. The queen herself never really appears in the stories, so trying to assign traits to the subclass was more difficult than I'd originally thought. 

The fighter subclasses were some of the most fun to create. I originally had subclasses like Crusader, Knight, and Steward, when I was focusing on more feudal type subclasses, but I knew that the Knight had already been created for Old School Essentials' Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules. I therefore decided to add in some more fairy-tale or literary type concepts. I realize that the "Clever Girl" could be called a "Princess," but when I originally envisioned her, I was thinking of characters like Little Red Riding Hood. I'm also saving the term "princess" for another project on which I'm working. Given that, "Clever Girl" seemed appropriate. The Boy King subclass is obviously a nod to King Arthur, including acknowledging that he often makes bad decisions even when given wise counsel. I added the Knight Errant and Giant Killer much later, after doing a bit of research on different archetypes from the medieval literary period. 

As an aside, one thing I've noticed that's difficult about writing in the Old School Essentials style is the lack of pronouns like "he" and "she" or "his" and "hers." I've gone through the rules several times, and nothing is ever written in a manner such as "When fighting a foe directly related to a quest he has accepted..."  That's why a lot of times, I feel that my writing and descriptions get a little clunky, as it necessitates repeating the subclass title instead of saying "he" or "she." 

The Squire was also originally on my list, assigned as a subclass to halfling. By the time I got to working out the mechanics, I'd used a lot of the ideas across the Boy King, Knight Errant, and Picaro subclasses. As it is now, I'm not sure that the Squire stands out enough, but I couldn't think of another fairy-tale appropriate concept for halflings. 

Both of the magic-user subclasses came to mind early on in the process, and the Evil Queen was actually pretty easy to design, because there's a lot to work with in literature and fairy tales. I'm not typically a fan of evil PCs, but played properly, I think an Evil Queen could work, or perhaps just be used as an NPC. The Wizened Mentor idea was also pretty easy, concept-wise, but creating the mechanics for "giving advice" took some doing. The idea is that the Wizened Mentor usually has good ideas, but might have such a quirky personality that people don't always accept his advice, and it gets them into trouble. The Wizened Mentor works best in a party that also has a Boy King and a Trusting Fool who might constantly ask for the Wizened Mentor's advice. 

The Picaro was one of the first thief ideas I came up with when I was transitioning my list from standard Feudal subclasses to incorporate more Fairy Tale type ideas. This was be the Sancho Panza to a Knight Errant's Don Quixote. One of my inspirations for this was actually old Looney Tunes cartoons when Porky Pig acts as Daffy Duck's sidekick, particularly from Robin Hood Daffy and Rocket Squad.

The Trusting Fool was a very late addition to my list, which I discovered while researching different fairy tale archetypes. Interestingly, combining the Trusting Fool with the Giant Killer gets you Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack the Giant Killer was a separate English fairy tale that seems to date to 1711, and which takes place in Arthurian times with Jack being an extremely strong and clever lad who kills giants, whereas the character from Jack and the Beanstalk gets into trouble because he is duped into trading the family cow for magic beans, but that mistake ends up benefiting him in the end. He outwits the giant, but doesn't go out of his way to kill or hunt them. As I was researching these concepts, I learned a lot about these early fairy tales and the history of the Jack character, an archetypal Cornish and English hero, often portrayed as lazy or foolish, but emerging triumphant through the use of cleverness and tricks. It had actually never occurred to me that the characters of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, Little Jack Horner, Jack & Jill, Jack Sprat, and others, were all based on the same Cornish archetype. 

There was one other fairy tale subclass archetype for the thief class that I didn't use because I'm saving it or another project, but I can tell you that it was based on a classic animated film. 

With that background, below is a table of the subclasses. As always, I very much much welcome your comments, input, suggestions, and critiques. 

A few people have asked me if I'm planning to publish these anywhere, and after having been asked that a few times, I can tell you that I am working on it. My goal for these would be to refine and tighten up the subclasses based on peoples' comments, and then to add in a few additional pages for each "theme" so that you'd be getting new content beyond just the tables of subclasses. I've started working on the Experts/Specialists list, and incorporating a few other classes that I created here, including some detailed revisions of the Alchemist Apprentice (which is just a standard Alchemist now), the Demolitionist (revised and improved), and the Inventor (working on revising this one right now). That might be a separate book, as it's a bit of a niche product, and then I'll gather the Wilderness, City/Urban, Naval/Sea, Horror, and Fairy Tale subclasses into a separate books. These would be short PDFs with some art, and available on DriveThruRPG. 




Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Watermelon Man" by Fred Wesley and the J.B.'s from "The Lost Album"



   

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Suggested Reading for National Superhero Day April 28th

Today, as I learned on my Alexa device this morning, is "National Superhero Day," celebrated every year on April 28th to honor superheroes, both real and fictional.

While superheroes like Batman, the Flash, Superman, and Captain America are fictional, as I've mentioned here before on my blog, they are also symbols of hope and role-models, inspiring people to be and act better. They are really just part of America's mythology of shared stories, similar to how stories of the Greek myths of antiquity were used as morality tales.

How can you celebrate National Superhero Day? For starters, something extremely meaningful you can do is recognize and thank all of the healthcare workers and others, like grocery store employees, who are putting themselves on the front lines of COVID-19 to provide treatment to those who are sick, and food and supplies for the rest of us. Those are some true real-life superheroes.

After that, you might be looking for something new to read. A recent study by a huge advertising agency conglomerate  indicated that "...nearly half (46%) of American consumers say they've already run out of media content to watch, read, or listen to." First off, that's just ridiculous. There is so much content out there in all three media (video, books, and music) and one could never "run out" in their lifetime. As I've been discussing with my friend, this is really just a case of people running out of what they're comfortable with reading/watching/listening to, and they're not using this as a chance to expand their media consumption to try something new, like listening to a different genre of music, or watching a documentary instead of another reality show or sitcom, or reading, say, a comic book instead of a romance novel.

Today I'm providing some recommendations of three different superhero stories of which I'm a big fan, but that have somewhat flown under the radar and don't often make the trendy lists of "best comics" alongside titles such as The Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Marvel's Civil War, of the Infinity Gauntlet. The three comics I feature below have something for everyone - one is an age appropriate title that will especially appeal to tween/teen girls, one has an intriguing story involving villains realizing that superheroes don't do enough to help and deciding to use their powers to make things better for the world, with some fantastic art, and one story has some fun comedic moments and some fantasy elements, and is written by a famous fantasy book author.   

DIAL H FOR HERO
This is based on a concept developed in the mid-1960's involving a magical rotary-dial telephone that is found by a young boy, who dials "H" and is transformed into a new, unique superhero for a short time. Every time he dials, he turns into someone else, with a different variety of powers and without knowing which hero he's going to turn into.

It's a fun concept, made even more so by a revised version of the story, recreated in 2012 by fantasy author China Miéville (of Perdido Street Station fame). In this version, the hero of the story is an out-of-shape and unemployed guy in his late 20's and already recovering from a heart attack, Nelson Jent, who accesses the powers of the H-dial via a phone booth. Interestingly, in his town, there is another dial user, and elderly woman named Manteau, who becomes a type of mentor to Nelson. The two of them begin working together to find other dial users as well as someone called Ex Nihilo, a "nullomancer." Along the way, each time Nelson uses the H-dial, he turns into unpredictable heroes like Boy Chimney, Captain Lachrymose, the Iron Snail, Baroness Resin, Shamanticore, Rancid Ninja, and Cock-a-Hoop. As you can tell by the hero names, there is a lot of humor in this story, but underlying everything is a darkness that adds to the creepy fantasy elements. There's also a theme involve Nelson, who wants to be a better person and become a hero, realizing that he is losing his own self-identify every time he uses the H-dial to gain the powers of a different superhero.

There are two trade paperbacks of the 2012/2013 Dial H series, which you can order from your local comic book shop if they are still open (I highly encourage this, as they need all the help they can get right now and it's worth spending a few extra dollars to help them stay on their feet versus ordering them from a big online merchandiser).

The series was once again resurrected just last year as part of an all-ages imprint of DC Comics, called Wonder Comics, spear-headed by superstar comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, whom DC Comics wooed over from a very long stint at Marvel Comics recently. The new Dial H for Hero series is written by one of my favorite comics writers, Sam Humphries, and it just concluded a few months ago - it was a 12-issue maxi-series that tells of the new founder of the H-dial, Miguel Montez. Miguel meets a runaway girl named Summer Pickles, and the two of them accidentally stumble across an H-dial and then become embroiled in a battle with the sinister Mr. Thunderbolt, and his Thunderbolt Club, who are trying to find all four dials (in this version of the story, there are four different colored dials - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), and the identify of Mr. Thunderbolt, as well as a benefactor named the Operator, were a huge, but fun shock. Both Miguel and Summer end up using the H-dial and become different heroes including Jobu the Zonkey King, Bluebird of Happiness, Iron Deadhead, Lo-Lo Kick You, Chimp Change, Alien Ice Cream Man, and Li'l Miguelito. Once again, the heroes are intended to be humorous, and each time a new hero is called up, the story takes a detour to tell the origin of that particular hero, who will most likely never be seen again. It's a fun homage to old-school Silver Age comics, while still being up-to-date enough to suit modern tastes.

This story is also told in two trade paperbacks. Volume 1 is available right now, whereas Volume 2 will be released in June 2020.

JUSTICE

This was a 12-issue limited series, published bi-monthly from 2005 to 2007, written by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, with art by Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite. Alex Ross is known for his photo-realistic style of art. He uses models for almost every single shot, to ensure that the musculature is in the correct position, and he bases many of his figures on famous actors (most notably, he uses Fred MacMurray as his basis for Captain Marvel/SHAZAM and Bruce Willis for his version of an elderly Captain America in the Earth-X story).

Justice tells the story of how earth's super-villains all have a shared dream or vision involving a nuclear Armageddon of Earth, which the Justice League fails to prevent. Believing that overconfidence on the part of the Justice League is to blame for the impending disaster, the villains decide to use their powers to destroy the Justice League by first improving the lives of the citizens of the world. They improve crops and food growing capabilities of third world countries, provide medical resources to combat disease, and fix other problems, earning them the respect and admiration of the general public, who begin to turn their backs on the Justice League.

Meanwhile, the leader of the super-villains, Lex Luthor, engineers a plan to remove the Justice League from the equation by utilizing stolen contingency plans Batman has created in the event that any member of the Justice League went rogue and needed to be stopped. One by one, the members of the League are brought down by Luthor and his cohorts, as a well to prevent them from then making the mistakes that cause the nuclear destruction of the Earth.

Of course, not everything is what it seems, but this is a great story that specifically causes the reader to consider how far heroes should go to interfere in the lives of others, even if it's for good or noble causes. Should Superman stop people from fighting, or should Wonder Woman interfere to stop a war just because she has the power to do so?

As a story that involves dozens of heroes and villains, this is a great way to get introduced to DC's huge library of characters if you're not familiar with them, and this story arc is non-continuity, meaning that it has specific ending point and it's not related to anything else that was happening in DC Comics at the time of its publication, so you don't need to read anything else for this story to make sense.

On top of all that, you have the gorgeous artwork to appreciate.

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER

This short four-issue story is my favorite Supergirl story in recent memory. Written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Joelle Jones, Sandu Florea, and Kelly Fitzpatrick, this is a new retelling of Supergirl's origins, which takes inspiration from the first telling of her origin, but updating it to tell a coming-of-age story of a young 16 year-old girl. Yes, she's Kara Zor-El, an alien with incredible powers. But, she's also a girl trying to navigate all of the things that a typical teenager has to deal with: friendships, relationships, school, and more. In this case, Kara's powers don't really manifest until her teenage years, so not only is she dealing with figuring out what's happening to her and wondering if it's part of normal puberty problems, she's also trying to hide what's happening from her friends.

I loved this story and highly recommend it, especially to parents of tween or teen girls. The entire series is available in one trade collection, and, as with Justice, it's "non-continuity," so it's self-contained and doesn't require any additional reading for context. In this case, it's also an origin story, making it a great introduction to the character for new readers.



As mentioned, your local comic book shop should be able to order these for delivery to you. If you're not sure if you have shop nearby, check out the Comic Shop Locator and just enter your ZIP Code to find your closest shop.

And lastly, a little treat - if you've also out of things to listen to, you can check out a playlist of Superhero themes I made on Spotify. These aren't all of the themes on there, but they're some of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite superhero stories? Share them below in the comments or on my social media channels.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: CalifornIPA by The Dudes Brewing Company
Listening: "Robin's Theme" by Dan and Dale, Sun Ra & the Blues Project, from the album "The Music of DC Comics: Volume 2"



Monday, April 20, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 Horror Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

This represents the fifth (or sixth, if you count the first table I came up with for my revised B/X-OSE Sorcerer class) table of subclasses for B/X and/or Old School Essentials games, this time for games with a stronger horror undercurrent. The idea of creating B/X style subclasses was inspired by the original D12 Subclasses by Dyson Logos on his blog.

HOW THE SUBCLASSES WORK
As a reminder for those who haven't seen my previous posts, or who haven't read Dyson's posts on the matter, the idea is that every character in a game like this would take a subclass. If a player opts to play a standard version of a character class instead, the referee should award that player's character +10% to earned XP to account for having fewer class features and abilities.

These subclasses are intended to be short, quick modifications to allow for a bit of customization without creating an entire new class, so while there may be a whole host of additional abilities you could think of to add to each subclass, they could end up making it too over-powered, or could instead have enough changes to warrant the creation of an entire new class in its own right. Instead, I'm taking the standard classes from the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X edition of D&D (or from Old School Essentials) and adding one or two new abilities based on the theme of the list. In some cases, I also remove some abilities for balance and flavor.

SOME DESIGNER NOTES
This is the first list of subclasses I've created that didn't have anything to do with the initial work I did on Expert characters. While converting some of the character concepts, multi-class concepts, and prestige classes I created for my discarded proposal for the Quintessential Expert over to B/X style subclasses, I kept a running list, and many of the leftover ideas that didn't make my list of D12 Expert/Specialist Subclasses I eventually used as inspirations to create lists for Wilderness, City/Urban, and Naval/Sea-Based Subclasses. As I was working on those themed lists, I started to think of other genres that could make sense for a table of subclasses, and horror was the first new genre that came to mind.

Several of the concepts on this list came to mind right away, including all three cleric subclasses of Exorcists, Occultists, and Spiritualists, as well as the Fortune Teller for elves (I changed the name of this one several times), the Necromancer for magic-users, and the Grave Robber for thieves. While I had the ideas for the titles of the subclasses, the actual abilities didn't come until much later. In fact, the Grave Robber subclass was the most difficult of all of this initial group to write, and I almost ended up discarding it completely because I couldn't figure out how to give it the right set of abilities that would be useful to an adventuring group but still make sense thematically.

Other concepts were much more difficult to create, which is one of the reason that it's been about a week since I made my last subclass post.

The dwarf concept was, by far, the most difficult one to create for this list, primarily because I couldn't think of an appropriate archetype that made sense for dwarves in a horror setting. Initially I was going to make them a version of demon slayer, but it wasn't quite fitting the aesthetic I was going for with this list, and the problems were compounded by the issue that demons and devils aren't part of the "official" rules for B/X D&D or Old School Essentials. I've spent the better part of two or more weeks trying to come up with a different archetype, at points considering some kind of angry, lost and forgotten underground version, or making them close to the derro from 1E Advanced D&D. At one point, I even considered how to make a dwarf subclass that emulated an Igor type lab assistant character. It wasn't until this morning, actually, that I came up with the idea of using Rumpelstiltskin as an archetype idea, but rather than using the proper name, I called him a Dark One, or an Imp. The abilities for this one are kind of fun, but I do wonder about the ability to create ("spin") gold out of mundane materials. It's only once a day, and the character can't keep the gold, so I figured it wouldn't be too powerful. It's mostly there for flavor purposes.

The Afflicted subclass of fighters was another semi-late addition to the list. Originally I was trying to work out a concept that would apply to a character bitten or infected by a lycanthrope or a vampire, and then I split it into two different subclasses, and ultimately discarded the vampire idea to concentrate on the lycanthrope idea, as I felt it was more flavorful. The Afflicted isn't intended to be a full lycanthrope, but rather a character that is fighting against its nature and holding his humanity intact. The d6 roll to determine the "animal affinity" was the first random roll idea I had for these subclassses, and then I extended that idea to the elf Fortune Teller and the magic-user Mad Scholar.

For the halfling subclass, the Jinx, I originally was going to go for a lighter touch and have them be a "good luck charm" type of character, but changed later to instead focus on bringing bad luck to opponents instead of good luck to comrades.

On the magic-user side, I struggled a bit with creating another subclass. I initially had a Golem Maker subclass that I envisioned as a Dr. Frankenstein type, and a Mad Scientist that was the classic crazy character that dabbles into things man was not meant to know. After doing some digging, I recalled that creating golems was a task for much higher level characters than B/X or Old School Essentials handle, and after initially discarding the entire idea, I realized that Dr. Frankenstein was a bigger concept than being limited to just golems, and I ended up merging the two different archetypes into the Mad Scholar. I like the d4 table to explain why they have a reaction roll penalty.

Lastly, having recently finished playing a years-long on-again, off-again campaign of the Masks of Nyarlothotep, playing an Investigator, I really wanted to use that as an archetype upon which to base a subclass. While that was one of the first subclasses I put on my list, it was toward the end of the ones that I fleshed out with different abilities.

As always, I'd really appreciate any comments, suggestions, and improvements you all have - comments from the community are one of the huge benefits of playing and developing content for the OSR RPGs.



Hanging: Home office (laptop), dining room table (laptop), and living room couch (Moleskine notebook)
Drinking: Oban Distillery's Edition 2012 Scotch Whisky
Listening: "The Grunt" by the J.B.'s, from the album "Food for Thought"




Monday, April 13, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 Naval/Sea Adventures Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

Continuing with my series on "D12 Subclasses" for B/X and Old School Essentials games (inspired, as always, but the fun and creative work done by Dyson Logos), here are 12 subclasses for games set in waterborne environments.

HOW THE SUBCLASSES WORK
As a reminder for those who haven't seen my previous posts, or who haven't read Dyson's posts on the matter, the idea is that every character in a game like this would take a subclass. If a player opts to play a standard version of a character, the referee should award that player's character +10% to earned XP to account for having fewer class features and abilities.

These subclasses are intended to be short, quick modifications to allow for a bit of customization without creating an entire new class, so while there may be a whole host of additional abilities you could think of to add to each subclass, they could end up making it too over-powered, or could instead have enough changes to warrant the creation of an entire new class in its own right. Instead, I'm taking the standard classes from the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X edition of D&D (or from Old School Essentials) and adding one or two new abilities based on the theme of the list. In some cases, I also remove some abilities as a balancing factor.

SOME DESIGNER NOTES
As with many of these lists so far, the idea for this particular theme came from looking over a few of the concepts I'd considered for my discarded Quintessential Expert proposal I was developing back in 2004/2005 for the 3.5 Edition of D&D. Specifically, I'd created a Sailor "character concept" (like a background, essentially), and a Ship's Captain prestige class. As I looked over the list, I figured I had two sea-based adventuring types that could be subclasses, so I just needed to figure out 10 more.

For this list, I was originally only going to create subclasses for the four human classes (cleric, fighter, magic-user, and thief). But, at the last minute, I snuck in an aquatic elf, because I remember liking those ever since encountering an NPC aquatic elf named (un-creatively) "Oceanus" in the classic AD&D adventure U1: The Secret of Saltmarsh, which was one of the first AD&D modules I played through as a kid. I recall that Oceanus was a Fighter/Thief, and this was a big deal to me as a very young, inexperienced player, because up until that point, I hadn't considered that elves other than High Elves could have class levels.

Once I created the aquatic elf subclass, it stuck out on my list because I didn't have anything for dwarves or halflings. As a result, I decided to create the dwarf "Sea Dog" and the halfling "Shantyman."

The dwarf Sea Dog subclass is intended to emulate the sort of old, experienced, but gruff and hard-drinking type of sea adventurer, who adds a bit of good luck to an expedition just by virtue of being aboard ship.

The halfling Shantyman (I'll confess I'm not ecstatic about the name, but it's a real word) was my idea of a hafling type bard who could also add a bit of good fortune to a ship's crew, as opposed to some of the more world-weary type subclasses on the list.

Giving credit where credit is due, the "Deep One Disciple" cleric subclass owes its inspiration to the Deep One Hybrid from the very creative Against the Wicked City blog. There are a lot of very creative and non-standard B/X style classes on that blog for you to check out.

I avoided using term "Swashbuckler" as a subclass, since that was already included on Dyson's lists, and instead went with "Buccaneer" for fighters. This subclass uses a unique "two-weapon fighting" mechanic that is different from that presented in the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules (page 25), so you may want to just pick one or the other.

I also did a unique parry type rule for the Corsair thief subclass (originally this was a Pirate, then a Buccaneer, but I ended up using Buccaneer for a fighter subclass, and I wasn't thrilled with "Pirate" because it was a bit too dull). There are more detailed parry rules in the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules, so if you use those, you might want to change this Corsair ability to something else (perhaps letting them use their dexterity bonus to melee attacks instead of their strength bonus).

For the smuggler, the idea with spending gp to get a reaction bonus is the equivalent of a bribe. I considered making it 10 gp per number of HD of the person being bribed, but the description got too wordy and fiddly. But, it's something I'm considering for any revisions I do of the list. I tried to envision the smuggler as a Han Solo type, which is where using the idea of them being able to use their thief skill to hide contraband cargo came from, as well as the idea of increasing their ability to evade pursuit.

The remaining subclasses I think are pretty self-explanatory in terms of the archetypes that inspired them.

As with all my subclasses and any other Open Game Content I have here on the blog, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 












Hanging: Home office (laptop) and living room (moleskin notebook)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Van Horn - Beatsumishi Remix" by Saint Motel (remixed by Van Horn) from the album "Van Horn (Beatsumishi Remix)"


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Open Game Content: D12 City or Urban Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials Games

This continues my short series on creating some subclasses for various different themes of B/X D&D Games (compatible with Old School Essentials), with some city/urban subclasses.

The idea of creating subclasses came from a series of posts on Dyson Logos' blog (I keep pointing that out each time because I want to make sure Dyson gets credit for the idea!).  As a reminder, from the system that Dyson created, the idea is that every character would take a subclass; if the player chooses not to, then the standard character would earn +10% XP to account for not having the additional abilities afforded by the subclass.

The idea of creating some more city-based subclasses sprang from the D12 Expert-Specialist subclasses I put together. When I was working on this, I ended up with a few more than 12, and I also got some input from a few folks on social media to add some different abilities to one of the subclasses, which then ended up becoming a separate subclass in its own right. I began to see that I could put the subclasses into thematic "buckets" like Wilderness or City. I've got two more lists pretty much ready to go, and then some very loose notes on about three or four other genres. If there's anything you'd like to see, drop a comment below to let me know, or better yet, take a stab at creating some yourself! Just make sure to link your creations here so I'll see them.

From this list of city/urban subclasses below, a few of them had their origins in the proposal I was writing back in 2004/2005 for a 3.5 edition book about the Expert NPC class, namely the engineer, appraiser, cartographer, courtesan, and forger. From there, I just expanded the list and tried to include at least one for each of the four main classes (this time, I didn't create any for the three demi-human races).

For clerics, I've gone back and forth on the chirurgeon as to whether it's too powerful or not. Given that the chirurgeon can only give a dead character a one-time saving throw versus death to try to recover, and can only do it on the round immediately after the character has died, I don't think it's too game-breaking. The scholar is essentially the same as the sage subclass of magic-users from my D12 Experts-Specialist Subclasses list.

For fighters, I originally had a "constable" but ultimately ended up changing that to the city watch. For the engineer, I tried to make it different enough to stand out from the siege engineer and artillerist from the D12 Experts-Specialists Subclasses, but also not have it involved in the actual building or crafting of structures, since that's not really something exciting for an adventurer to worry about.

The magic-user subclass for this list was a bit difficult. I originally had a "guild mage" on my list, but decided that wasn't all that different from the standard magic-user. In my head when putting together these city/urban subclasses, I envisioned a slightly higher technology level in a later time period that the standard medieval environment of most games, and the idea of a character specializing in hypnotism and mesmerism seemed like a good fit for a city campaign. The idea is that the mesmerist uses hypnotism to put someone "at ease" and make it easier for them to be subject to other spells.

The thief class got the most subclasses on this list. The courtesan class was inspired by the "doxy" character concept that I was asked to write for my Quintessential Expert proposal. I liked the term courtesan better, as it referred mainly to someone who uses dignified etiquette to attract wealth, powerful, or influential clients. Originally the word came from the term courtier and wasn't necessarily sexual in nature. You could call it an escort as well. For the spymaster, I originally just called it a spy, but I'm trying to avoid repeating names that Dyson Logos used for his subclasses, and he had a spy as one of his. I changed it to infiltrator for a bit, but ultimately settled on spymaster.

Similar to the D12 Wilderness subclasses I posted earlier this week, I think that a DM who tells players that they can pick a subclass from this list also immediately helps with world-building - it signals to the players that they'll be participating in a different kind of adventure than a standard dungeon crawl, but one full of intrigue, social interactions, and perhaps law-and-order.

As with all of my subclasses (and any of my other Open Game Content) here on the blog, I always welcome your comments, suggestions, and yes, even criticisms (as long as they are backed with reasons).



Hanging: Home office (laptop) and living room (hand-written notes on a notebook)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Wristband" by Paul Simon, from the album "Stranger to Stranger"

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

D12 Wilderness Subclasses for B/X or Old School Essentials

Here's another set of D12 Subclasses for B/X games, inspired by a series of posts by Dyson Logos a few years ago in which he provided small tweaks to each of the main B/X classes and even added additional ones for Assassins, Druids, Illusionists, Monks, Paladins, and Rangers (rounding out the classic classes from 1st Edition AD&D). He also provided subclasses for two modified classes of his, the Elven Warder and the Enchanter, as well as some fun stuff like Snail Lords, Centaurs, and "Gibberings."

I first started doing these as a way to distinguish the different sorcerer bloodlines for the B/X - Old School Essentials version of the Sorcerer class I created. I had so much fun creating the subclasses and it occurred to me it would be a good way to convert the 3.5 material I'd written as a proposal for a Quintessential Expert book that I never version, so I created D12 Expert/Specialist Subclasses. When I posted my initial draft of those on social media, I got some commentary by a few folks on MeWe (namely Kyrinn S. Eis and Phil Viverito) who suggested some additional class abilities I could apply to the Pathfinder subclass, but I felt that the class already had enough modifications, so I suggested that I could perhaps create a second set of D12 Expert/Specialist subclasses, with one called a "Trailblazer" that would include some of the suggestions they made. 

I started with the Trailblazer subclass of Fighters, and began making a list, going back to a few of the character concepts, multi-class combinations, and prestige classes from my proposal that I hadn't used yet, and as I went through them, I began to organize them into buckets based on the environment. That's where this list of D12 Wilderness Subclasses comes from.

As a reminder if you haven't read Dyson Logos' posts, the idea is that every character would take a subclass. If you don't want to play a subclass, but rather just a straight "by the book" version of a class, you should gain an additional +10% XP to account for having fewer abilities than these subclasses.

Please continue to offer your thoughts, suggestions, changes, or general commentary on these classes. My plan is to continue to update them to make them better, especially if people catch mistakes or see things that could easily be abused by players.














Hanging: Home office (laptop) and living room (original notes in a small notebook)
Drinking: "That's the Kind of IPA That Makes You Wish You Spoke a Little French" by Evil Twin Brewing Company
Listening: "Johnny Appleseed" by Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, from "Global A Go-Go"


Saturday, April 4, 2020

D12 Experts/Specialists for B/X or Old School Essentials

I've been talking about this a lot lately, but way back in 2004/2005, I was working on a follow-up proposal to my first class guide for an RPG, the Quintessential Aristocrat, for the 3.5 system. The publisher agreed to let me work on a proposal for the Quintessential Expert, and I worked on it for years, trying to get it "just right," but then in 2008, D&D 4th Edition was released, and not only was it so completely different from 3.5, but it also didn't include NPC classes like Experts any longer, so I shelved my project.

I've been digging out a lot of this old material, dusting it off, and putting it up here on my blog in either the original format for 3.5, or modifying it to work with OSR type games such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Old School Essentials.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a series of posts by Dyson Logos called "D12 Subclasses" in which he posted a variety of different subclasses for all of the main B/X and 1st Edition AD&D classes, making very small tweaks to the base class (adding an extra ability or two). In his system, every player would need to take a subclass, or create a new one, and if the player chooses not to, then the "Focused" version of that class is used, meaning that the character gains +10% XP when adventuring. This really inspired me to begin working on some of my own class modifications.

It occurred to me that one fun way of presenting a lot of the classes I had created for my 3.5 Quintessential Expert proposal for an OSR system such as Old School Essentials would be to present them as subclasses. One of the chapters I had included in my proposal was for "Multi-Class Combinations" - the idea was that a character would multi-class as an expert and another core class (cleric, fighter, etc.), and I provided suggestions on level progressions between the two classes, skills and feats that should be taken, and created some "class ability swaps" (which, while not all that novel, was a rather new thing at the time for the 3.5 version of the game). It allowed the core classes to give up some of their standard class abilities in exchange for other abilities that were more appropriate to the concept. For example, one of my cleric multi-class expert combinations was an Artifact Seeker. In addition to suggesting which skills and feats to take, the proposal recommended that the player could give up the ability to spontaneously cast cure spells in order to gain a rogue's trapfinding ability.

Earlier this week, it hit me that these "ability swaps" could be the core mechanic for me adapting some of my expert classes to Old School Essentials, via the "D12 Subclasses" framework. Below is a table I came up, organized by main class (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief).

Before the table, here is a list of the original class material material I wrote for my Quintessential Expert proposal, organized by chapter. Some of these are not on the table below, but will either appear in future "D12 Subclasses" tables, or have already been detailed here on the blog, such as the Alchemist Apprentice and Blacksmith, Demolitionist, and Inventor.


  • Character Concepts 
    • (these were like backgrounds, or a stripped-down version of 2nd Edition AD&D "kits" - giving a small bonus and a small hindrance to the main class, and providing some role-playing information - I detailed a few of these in this post)
    • Apprentice Alchemist
    • Blacksmith
    • Cartographer
    • Demolitionist
    • Doxy
    • Guide
    • Herbalist
    • Historian
    • Inventor
    • Monster Specialist
    • Sailor
    • Scribe
    • Stone Mason
    • Trader
  • The Multi-Class Expert
    • I mentioned that Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Monks, Rangers, and Rogues make poor multi-class experts, because they all have more skill points per level than the other classes noted below, and increased skill points and variety of skills was one of the main features of the Expert class
    • Cleric / Paladin: Artifact Seeker
    • Fighter: Arms Crafter, Artillerist, Sapper
    • Sorcerer: Arcane Investigator
      • This was envisioned as a kind of "Agent Mulder" character, investigating strange phenomena
    • Wizard: Arcane Artisan
  • The Prestige Expert
    • Apothecary
    • Engineer
    • Explorer
    • Forger
    • Judge
    • Master Alchemist
    • Merchant
    • Saboteur
    • Sage
    • Scout
    • Ship's Captain
    • Siege Engineer
Special thanks to Cory Cepelak who provide comments and suggestions to my rough draft of these subclasses on my Facebook post, and to Kyrinn S. Eis and Phil Viverito who also provided comments and suggestions to my post on MeWe. Using their comments, I tweaked a few things on the subclasses below, but also got inspired to make a whole new series of subclasses that I'll be posting later.

Here is the table for D12 Expert/Specialist Subclasses. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.




























Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Fernet Branca
Listening: "That's the Way" by Led Zeppelin, from "Led Zeppelin III"
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